MARCH/APRIL 2013 - ADAR/NISAN/IYAR 5773
The Forgotten Gift
Interestingly, I doubt that more than 5% of the people I were to ask about Passover would tell me they enjoy the holiday because of the freedom it affords us. But, isn't that the essence of the holiday? At its core, isn't that what it is all about? Is it ironic how the core principle of the Seder and the holiday that ensues is almost forgotten and under appreciated during this season.
Freedom is a strange thing to appreciate for an entire generation of people that never knew anything but its rewards and beauty. My children will live in a world that will witness little division between black and white people. The idea of a black president will not be a dream but a proven history. Jews are afforded rites and properties in a way that our history never allowed before. The State of Israel is flowing with milk and honey; technological advances and accessibility that the likes of David ben Gurion and Theodore Herzl could only dream about. Our kids sleep under a blanket of protection and comfort with countless possibilities at their fingertips. How could they properly appreciate the gifts of freedom they are surrounded by daily. I wonder how any of us can appreciate something that we have always had and was never taken from us?
Maimonides, the 12th Century rabbi, physician and philosopher teaches that the things that matter more than anything else to us are the things we never pause to appreciate. He begins to enumerate such things; our breathing, our heartbeat, the sun rising from the sky, oxygen in the air. Our vision, hearing and other senses. How true he was. I have found that most people appreciate the beating of their heart most, after that beating stops. The person who appreciates breathing the most is the person that just choked.
Similarly, Israel is facing a new phenomenon; a generation of people born into the country that only knew of its existence. The formation of the state, the wars for its independence and the sacrifices made are not fresh like they were for the Rabins and the Peres' and Meirs' of this world. How do we train people to defend and love a land like we did when it was just born?
This question is much bigger than Passover, but the holiday embodies the dilemma perfectly. We are celebrating our freedom when we have never experienced slavery; choices when we have never been denied free will. Perhaps the most potent verse of the Haggadah is when we are told, we must see ourselves as if we personally came out of Egypt. What this line is teaching us hundreds of years after the author put it in the text is that while certain amenities and choices might be afforded us today, we can never forget where we came from or those that made sacrifices on our behalf. If we do, then we have lost the essence of what the holiday of Passover, and freedom in general is about in the first place. Our generation might have it easy in some respects. But, our challenge is to create a generation of appreciation and understanding of the freedoms we are afforded so we can indeed, maximize this holiday as Zman Chayrutainu - a time of OUR freedom.
Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner